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Tensed situation with AP - are we expecting too much?

(20 Posts)
MarasmeAbsolu Sun 30-Nov-14 16:39:47

We have had our (first) current AP since mid-August.
She joined our family as my eldest DD started school. Both DH and I work FT (DH commutes 1-1.5h to work) and we have another DD aged 2, who goes to nursery.

The AP's duties are quite basic, and have been vetted by the agency. She gets £80pw.

Basically, her duties are as follow:
7.30 - come to kitchen, have breakfast, help the kids eat (we are there too, and moving things along). Empty dishwasher (but DH usually has this done by 7am) and help fixing the packed lunches (often leftovers or sandwiches) for the girls. Clear table and surfaces, reload dishwasher (it is only her eating and the girls - we do not take bkfst)
8.15am - dress older DD and walk to school at 8.30am (15 minutes, in busy city center - a nice outing via shops)

She is then free til 3pm when she picks DD and cares for her til we get back circa 5.30pm. During that time, we expect her to organise some independent play for DD and maybe tidy the girls bedroom, run the girls laundry once a week, and the girls beddings laundry every other week. she is meant to set the table at 5.30pm too, and to start the girls pack lunch prep the evening before if we have food leftovers.

Then there is the "family time" contributions that you'd expect from all family members: clearing the table at the end of the meal, helping out with food prep etc.

She has her WEs, and while she is meant to babysit 1 to 2 evenings per week, rarely does so as we do not get out much. She does not have to clean (except her own bedroom) and does not cook family evening meals (I do this). She does not do bathtime, or bedtime.

My issues are the following (I appreciate some may seem a bit trite, but they do concern me):
- We are in a busy, lively city, with rich cultural heritage. She has never set a foot further out than the school run (she is not shy or unsure, just not interested)
- She has refused to meet other APs or to build frendships, actively rejecting people. She NEVER gets out. EVER. Except for school run.
- She spends a lot of time on her mobile phone or FB, during DD play time
- She is enrolled on a distance learning course, which is "full time" equivalent, and has a lot of homework. We feel that she is not here for the cultural experience, or caring for children per se, but more to get through her course while gettign free lodging and board.
- While she was very bubbly and talked about her love of art and craft during her interview, she has only once organised such an activity for DD, the rest of the time is spent passing time at the park, or playing along with DD (rather than organising play / crafts)
- She does not cook at all for herself during the day, but instead taps in the frozen or refrigerated left-over portions, which are really intended for the girls, first, and for us while at work where there is no cooking facilities.
- she has zero initiatives and does not learn from one day to the next. She has so far not been able to fix both girls packed meals, ever, despite the fact that we do it everyday, in front of her, talking through it.
- At WE, she turns up, puts her feet under the table, and leaves straight after clearing the plates (nevermind the pans and pots etc). She will otherwise go play with the girls when we do the cleaning (I would quite like to play with my DDs too, rather than scrubbing pots!)
- She was VERY stroppy on a family holidays with others families present, to the extent that we had to apologies to our friends, and have a word with her (she was mostly off-duty, except for babysitting in the evenings).
- I've had to get my parents and IL's over to bail us out for school hols or times when one of us was working abroad, as she is very conscious of the number of hours she works (and will not do "more", even if she does not deliver on the actual hours).

The good points:
- she keeps herself to herself in the evening, in her room
- she is polite and quiet, does not smoke or drink and is generally a respectful person
- my DD1 likes her. DD2 took a little longer, but now does get on well with her.
- she is reliable with turning up on time to school for DD1

Since she has been with us, my workload has shot up. I have confrontation, so does DH. His position is better the devil you know, where he possibly has a point. But I was expecting more from the experience (possibly unfairly). I was an AP back in the 90's and worked my arse off, but also enjoyed a lot of great life experiences that I would never have lived at home otherwise (my families also had quite an expensive lifestyle - I enjoyed the taste of that too!).

We need to have "the talk" but it is all very awkward - the DH thinks we should bite the bullet and accept the deal, while I would like to think that there are more young people with get-up-and-go out there...

AAARRRG - I do not know what to do

LaurieFairyCake Sun 30-Nov-14 16:49:30

I think some of your points are a bit nit-picky - I'm really surprised you care that she's not interested in the culture in your town confused

The other stuff about hours, just point out she hasn't done her hours - put it on a chart on the board ? If she's not babysitting during the week tell her she has to do the pots while you play with the kids.

I wouldn't let her be stroppy at all - I'd send her to her room like a child.

Tell her to make packed lunches and then check them after and do not do it, fold your arms and tell her to change it - in general be a bit more forceful than wishy washy. Have a list of things to go in it, tell her to tick it off and bring you the list after ?

LaurieFairyCake Sun 30-Nov-14 16:52:32

And if she's not supposed to work weekends then even though it would be nice, you can't really force her to do chores.

Ime you can't teach get up and go - and yes, it's bloody annoying when folk don't have any hmm

grandmainmypocket Sun 30-Nov-14 17:02:40

I agree with your husband. It's a pity she not quite what you expected, but it doesn't sound like she's a bad influence.
Regarding frozen food I would recommend making more for her as well. Holidays, you may need to pay her more. Some au pairs become like family whilst others run out the minute you get home.
From your description it sounds like she doesn't have the get up and go. Maybe speak to her about washing up after eating (playing with the girls is very positive though, mine never did that on WE) and give her pointers. Ask her to be slightly flexible with hours.

Ultimately though if you're not happy it's not going to work. (But how do you guarantee the next one will be better?). Hope it works out for you.

OhReallyDear Sun 30-Nov-14 17:22:17

- We are in a busy, lively city, with rich cultural heritage. She has never set a foot further out than the school run (she is not shy or unsure, just not interested)

None of your business

- She has refused to meet other APs or to build frendships, actively rejecting people. She NEVER gets out. EVER. Except for school run.

None of your business

- She spends a lot of time on her mobile phone or FB, during DD play time

You are definitelly entitled to tell her that she shouldn;t use her phone while on dty with the girls

- She is enrolled on a distance learning course, which is "full time" equivalent, and has a lot of homework. We feel that she is not here for the cultural experience, or caring for children per se, but more to get through her course while gettign free lodging and board.

None of your business

- While she was very bubbly and talked about her love of art and craft during her interview, she has only once organised such an activity for DD, the rest of the time is spent passing time at the park, or playing along with DD (rather than organising play / crafts)

I think you are expecting a little bit too much. After a day at nursery, playing with her or go to the park seems just fine, but if you want her to do crafts, why not tell her that you'd like her to do more crafts and to tell you if she needs more equipment

- She does not cook at all for herself during the day, but instead taps in the frozen or refrigerated left-over portions, which are really intended for the girls, first, and for us while at work where there is no cooking facilities.

Cook more and leave more left-over?

- she has zero initiatives and does not learn from one day to the next. She has so far not been able to fix both girls packed meals, ever, despite the fact that we do it everyday, in front of her, talking through it.

Did you tell her clearly that she had to do the lunch boxes? What about a check list that she would follow to make it

- At WE, she turns up, puts her feet under the table, and leaves straight after clearing the plates (nevermind the pans and pots etc). She will otherwise go play with the girls when we do the cleaning (I would quite like to play with my DDs too, rather than scrubbing pots!)

Well, she clears her plates. I wouldn;t ask her to clear the pates. Maybe tell her that there should be a rota for the weekend, and she clears the table on Saturday and you on Sunday?

- She was VERY stroppy on a family holidays with others families present, to the extent that we had to apologies to our friends, and have a word with her (she was mostly off-duty, except for babysitting in the evenings).

What happened?

- I've had to get my parents and IL's over to bail us out for school hols or times when one of us was working abroad, as she is very conscious of the number of hours she works (and will not do "more", even if she does not deliver on the actual hours).

Well, that does seem fair, tbh

MarasmeAbsolu Sun 30-Nov-14 17:24:29

Thanks for the replies
Laurie - I AM concerned when someone who joins as an AP to experience a new culture (she was specifically seeking our pat of the world) rejects that very same culture... and any contact with anyone, including other young people. I cannot treat her as a child. She is 20, and an adult.

And helping with family meals at the WE is not "chores" surely, nor work. It is what it takes for food to make its way to the table?

It probably is the wrong solution for us - the extra workload has been too much on top of work.

OhReallyDear Sun 30-Nov-14 17:24:56

I meant "I wouldn't ask her to clean the pans". Sorry

MarasmeAbsolu Sun 30-Nov-14 17:32:13

ORD - the full time course is actually a big issue, when it encroaches on my DD play time, and when it is the entire focus of everything.

The more I read, the more I think this is definitely not for us - if someone comes to live with us as part of our family, my expectation would be for them to pull their own weight. I was not expecting having to cook even more to make sure she is catered for a lunchtime when there is loads of ingredient to cook her own simple meals (or bread / bagels / cheese etc).

When I am staying at my Ps or ILs, I certainly do clean the pans, or at least give a hand.

LaurieFairyCake Sun 30-Nov-14 17:32:41

Nah, you're wrong - it doesn't matter a rats ass whether she makes use of your culture

And agree that it's hard living with someone

OhReallyDear Sun 30-Nov-14 17:40:15

You didn't mention that it was encroaching on DD play time, you made it sound like she played with them.

It's OK to realise that an AP is not for you, maybe a live out nanny is better.

MissMalonex2 Sun 30-Nov-14 17:43:20

I think she's not a good fit with your family and importantly with you. I've had four au pairs and the one thing I look for is initiative - if the au pair makes things harder work for me then what is the point. Tell her the things you want done differently. If she wants to eat with you at weekends, she should help clear up. If it continues not to work, call it a day and look for a replacement. I've had one au pair like this and stuck with it for a year - never again. Life is too short to create additional stress. There will be a family who she will fit with and there will be an au pair you will fit with

BeattieBow Sun 30-Nov-14 17:47:20

I think the only thing you can pick her up on is her use of her phone while she is looking after your children. The rest is ok, just not what you would prefer.

In relation to the daytime food - you could ask her not to eat the left overs, but you would need to ask her what she would like you to buy for her to eat instead.

In relation to not putting in more than her contract hours - that's fair enough really (although not ideal). You either need to pay her more if she does more, or reach a mutual arrangement with her that she gets time off in the future.

MarasmeAbsolu Sun 30-Nov-14 17:49:30

ORD - we are not there during the time she is with DD1 from 3 til 5.30pm. I take all comments from a 5yo with a pinch of salt, but have heard quite a few time that the AP had a lot of homework to deal with. The agency had expressed concern (to the OP, that is) that she was engaging on a FT course, as it would conflict timewise with the AP duties.

Laurie - we'll have to agree to disagree.

Living with someone is definitely tough - I expected that (I've lived in communities before, when I was a bit younger) but would never have expected that having an AP would be like getting a third teenage daughter to look after. And that this person would NEVER (literally) leave the house - I am happy she feels at home, but we have to leave if we want to have some time alone. This came as a bit of a shock...

It will be a long year if we stick at it.

LaurieFairyCake Sun 30-Nov-14 17:56:23

I thought she spent the majority of the time in her room confused

Itsfab Sun 30-Nov-14 18:08:08

I was an au pair many years ago and I wish they had told me exactly what they expected of me and what I was okay to do. At times I really didn't feel welcome to sit with them yet my room had nothing in it. I got used to lots of reading. I wasn't told what and when I could eat either and ended up buying a lot of my own food.

Karoleann Sun 30-Nov-14 20:54:50

It always amazes me how many people who comment on au pair threads, do not actually have au pairs, or know nothing about the principal.

They are here on a cultural exchange - to learn the language and learn about the UK, so of course you want them to go out and about and meet other people. We insist that our au pairs do a language class and meet other au pairs and generally they have a lovely time socialising with new friends. I would not want an au pair who did not do that.

Holidays are an easy one to sort out - just don't take her along!

The other bits are fairly easy to sort out. Do a detailed daily schedule. Often its easier for both of you to just write things down rather than speaking about them.
You have 25 hours, so she can sort out the kitchen after school run. So,
Monday
7.45am: Help with breakfast
8am: Make packed lunch (leave stuff out for her)
8.15am: get DD dressed and take to school
9am: Empty dishwasher and clean surfaces.
3pm: Pick up DD
3.30pm: Please do some sewing with DD
5pm: Dinner etc
Please help yourself to food in the fridge as usual for lunch, but leave the freezer stuff for the children's dinner.
Can I also remind you not to use your mobile phone whilst looking after the children, unless its an emergency.

However, I would never expect my au pair to do more hours she is "contracted" to do, I also don't expect them to wash up after dinner.

She doesn't have to stay a year if things aren't working out. Personally, our experiences with au pair agencies weren't good. More independent au pairs seem confident using au pair world - so I'd do that next time.

Viviennemary Sun 30-Nov-14 21:01:19

She sounds like hard work. I agree with a timetable and even type out instructions for packed lunches and leave her to it. It just seems to be hit and miss if you get a really good AP or a hopeless one.

MarasmeAbsolu Sun 30-Nov-14 23:20:32

thanks for the replies!

re working more than contracted hours - I have not expressed myself clearly: we've had the grandparents over for part of the holidays - meaning that over a 5 day period, she had 4 days free of duties, yet refused to do the one full day as it would tally up to more than 5h.

She definitely IS hardwork. But the next one, and the one after might be hardwork too... it's a lottery.

We have had daily, written scheduled, we have discussed her doing more constructive activities, like baking (she told us about her famed muffin recipe, we were keen!), we have outlined rotas (inc. making the lunch boxes)... yet nothing happens.

On average, her "sole care / sole duties" tally up to approx 3.5h a day.
I will work on a more detail schedule making up for the other 1.5hours.

There has been an improvement this weekend - I feel she feels I am at the en of my tether....

Karoleann - do you leave your au pairs at home on their own for an extended period while you are on hols?
We travel a lot with the kids as part of work, and it was something specified in her contract. We were hoping to find someone who would enjoy the opportunity to get to new places (my family took me on fancy ski holidays when I APed - I could not believe my luck!)

Karoleann Mon 01-Dec-14 12:49:56

Marasme - yes, we don't take our au pairs away with us generally, although we did take one to center parcs last year. DH works very long hours so family time on holiday is really important and I don't think I'd feel comfortable with our au pairs coming too. Especially if they don't appreciate it!

We only tend to go away for a week at a time anyway so they're never alone for that long a period.

Headofthehousehold Tue 02-Dec-14 00:56:56

I would get rid. Life is too short and unless you are in outer Mongolia there are lots of girls who want and appreciate the AP experience. We had 1 dreadful girl exactly as u described from SA. Awful she refused to leave her room, god she was so boring as she had nothing to discuss. It makes the whole situation unbearable as it is incredibly difficult having a stranger live in your home. At least if they are going out and having fun and enjoying being here it makes it worth while. We couldn't stand it and terminated her contract early, afterward I was so relieved I wondered why I had tolerated it for so long.

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